Troubleshooting and Repairing your Water Heater
Published Oct 26, 2016
By Gary Sprague
A water heater is one of the most indispensable appliances in a home, as anyone who has gone a day without hot water can attest. Water heaters last an average of 5 to 10 years, and like all equipment they develop problems from time to time. So what can you do if your water heater stops working properly? Some problems you can troubleshoot yourself, while others will require the attention of a professional contractor.
If you aren’t getting hot water from your water heater, here are two troubleshooting steps you should take before doing anything else:
- Check that the water shut-off valve to the water heater hasn’t been accidentally turned off. The valve is normally located in the cold water pipe leading to your water heater.
- Check for a bad fuse or tripped breaker in your main electrical panel. If you have a gas, propane or oil-fired water heater, make sure that you haven’t run out of fuel.
These are simple steps, but they can save you an embarrassing and potentially expensive service call. Here are a few other common water heater problems:
Water Temperature Problems
A faulty water heater thermostat can cause the water to be too hot or too cold. If this is the problem, the thermostat will need to be replaced. A bad heating element can also cause little to no hot water. A multimeter can be used to test an element. If the element is bad, it can be replaced by turning off the electricity, disconnecting the wires to the element, turning it out of the water heater and replacing it with a new one. Just be certain to drain some water from the tank first. On a gas water heater the pilot may simply need to be relit, or the problem could be a bad thermocouple.
Smelly or Dirty Water
Bad smelling or rust colored water are usually signs of a bad anode rod. A water heater’s anode rod is designed to prevent the tank from corroding. When the anode rod goes bad, it can affect the smell and taste of the water and shorten the life of your water heater. Flushing the unit will sometimes help, but usually the anode rod will need to be replaced.
Noisy Water Heater
Water heater noise could be caused by the elements heating up, or it could be a sign of sediment build-up. Flushing the tank out can sometimes help with this problem. Be sure to turn off the electricity to an electric tank before flushing it to prevent burning out the heating elements.
If there is water on the floor under your water heater, check the water pipes and valves above the water heater first, as the leaking water may have run down. Also, check the threads around heating elements. If the water heater itself is leaking, the unit has corroded and will need to be replaced.